Some years ago I was stationed with a priest who, while he often liked my homilies, would often critique my use of what he called “fear based preaching.” Perhaps I had warned the congregation of punishment for sin, or even let slip that certain things were mortal sins that would exclude one from heaven and land them in hell. I would often playfully remind the congregation that missing Sunday Mass was a mortal sin by saying, “Go to Mass or go to hell.” I would also warn that fornicators would not inherit the Kingdom nor idolaters nor adulterers nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (cf 1 Cor 6:9).

Of course I was quoting Scripture and preaching out of a voluminous biblical tradition of warning texts. Nevertheless, the older priest would often wag his finger and say, “Ah that’s fear-based preaching…fear based!”

Perhaps it was, but so what? And yet many (not all) priests of his generation were of the mind that to warn at all or to incite any fear in the people of God was some “abusive” and bad pastoral practice. They seem to have been a generation in reaction to something before them. Perhaps they had grown up with what they thought was too much fire and brimstone preaching and not enough of a summons to higher motives rooted in love and mature spiritual reflection.

It is true, that the First Letter of John does set for a kind of goal for us that we be free of the mere fear of punishment and root our moral life in love:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

And yet, if this goal, good and important that it is, is meant to eliminate any appeal to ordinary fear of punishment, apparently Jesus never got the memo. Neither did St. Paul, St Peter, St. James, St Jude, the Author of the Letter to the Hebrews, and even John himself seems to have forgotten the “rule” from time to time.

For the fact is, the quote from First John sets for a goal for the spiritually mature. But that does mean that we are all there. In fact, people are at many different stages of spiritual growth. Surely the Lord, and the gospel and epistle writers knew this, as does every experienced pastor.

Frankly, many are still at a spiritual stage where the fear of punishment is both necessary and salutary.

Jesus certainly saw fit to appeal to the fear of punishment, loss, and hell. In fact, it is arguable that this was his main approach and that one would struggle to find very many texts where Jesus appeals more to a perfect contrition and a purely holy fear rooted in love alone as a motive to avoid sin. But over and over in dozens of passages and parables Jesus warns of punishment and exclusion from the Kingdom for unrepented sin and for the refusal to be ready. Here are just a few:

  1. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt 7:13-14)
  2. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Mat 13:41-42)
  3. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” (Mk 13:35-37)
  4. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with carousing, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come on you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:34-36)
  5. “But about that day or hour no one knows…For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away…“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matt 24:36-44)
  6. The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looks not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt 24:51)
  7. Then the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matt 25:10-13)
  8. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat…“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt 24:41-42, 46)
  9. Whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt 5:28-29)
  10. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matt 5:22)
  11. And if your foot offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mk 9:45-46)
  12. Friend, how came you in here not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matt 22:12-14)
  13. Then said Jesus again to them, I go my way, and you shall seek me, but you shall die in your sins: where I go, you cannot come….I have told you that you will die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins (John 8:21, 24).
  14. by their fruits you shall know them. Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt 7:20-23)
  15. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)
  16. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. (John 12:48)
  17. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give youthis testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Rev 22:14-16)

Dozens of other texts, parables and warnings could be added unto this list. But let these Suffice. The bottom line is that Jesus warned and appealed to the fear of punishment a LOT.

No one loves you more than Jesus and yet no one warned of judgment and Hell more than Jesus. He knows how stubborn and hard we are, and thus he is plain and warns with clarity and charity.

St. Paul and all the other Epistle writers have many warning texts as well that proclaim a salutary fear of punishment. A common example of the Pauline warning texts is this:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous  will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

Translation: if one stays in serious and unrepented sin, they go to Hell. And thus, St Paul too, as well as the other Epistle writers all appeal to the fear of punishment.

Now why should we, who are summoned to preach and teach in Jesus’ name, reject a key strategy that he and his chosen apostles employed? And yet, it has been a consistent modern practice to all but ignore the substantial warning texts that occur throughout the preaching of Jesus and the Apostles.

Part of the reason for our rejection would seem rooted in the fact that we live in rather dainty times wherein people easily take offense. Further the “self-esteem” culture and its premises are inimical to speaking of people as sinners or in anyway rejected. Thirdly, many today have cast God in the role of doting Father, and Jesus as a harmless hippie. No matter how unbiblical the images of the Lord are, they are pervasive and people do not easily let go of them, even when confronted with biblical texts.

But, at the end of the day, those of us who preach are without excuse if we neglect or refuse a pastoral practice used extensively by Jesus himself. By our silence in this regard we mislead God’s people and become, in effect, deceivers who do not preach the “whole counsel of God” (cf Acts 20:27).

While it is true that we can help to lead God’s people from an imperfect contrition (rooted in fear of punishment) to a more perfect contrition (rooted in love for God), it remains a rather clear fact that many of the faithful are at different stages and are not yet at the perfect contrition stage.

For this reason the Church has always allowed that imperfect contrition was sufficient to receive absolution. The traditional act of contrition (which is to be preferred) says,

…I detest all my sins, not only because I fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend you my God who are all good, and deserving of all my love….

This act of contrition is to be preferred because it distinguishes perfect and imperfect contrition and properly notes that most of us have by sorts of contrition admixed. But this act of contrition also helps the penitent recall the journey we ought to make out of the fear of punishment to the deeper and more perfect motive of love of God and neighbor to avoid sin.

But for most of us, this is a journey that is underway, and some have made more progress than others. Meanwhile, the preachers of the Church do well to appeal to the fear of punishment among other motives to avoid sin.

Jesus and the Apostles never hesitated to recall the fearful results of sinful obstinance. And neither should we who Preach today. Fear of punishment is needed after all.

Here is an excerpt from one of my funeral sermons that uses warning and incites fear of judgement and hell.

32 Responses

  1. Jennifer says:

    Monsignor, thank you for preaching the truth. Your blog helps me to follow Christ. And I need help, because underneath it all I am just a poor weak sinner.

  2. Hope says:

    We go to the doctor when we are physically ill. They are the physicians of our bodies. Priests are the physicians of our souls. What would we think of a Doctor who refused to diagnose or treat our ailments? Would we continue to patronize him and be his patient? It is safe to conclude we would be correct in believing he did not care to restore us to health and we would quickly seek out other Physicians and remedies to bring us relief and cures. Priests have an obligation to instruct the people in their charge with all he possesses spiritually and intellectually with the intent to bring God’s people to eternal life. A Priest beings souls home to God. Anything short of that means he is derelict in his duties, First to God and then to the souls he shepherds. How I pray Priests would realize the enormous responsibility they hold and often withhold by never preaching the truth about sin and it consequences. Many Priests speak about the love of Jesus and his mercy this is all very true. Another name for Jesus IS mercy. However, Monsignor as you so eloquently wrote Jesus told the people about the horror of sin and where it would lead, Jesus is Love because he is all knowing and does not want to see one soul perish. I am often frustrated with those who say we gain more souls through compassion then when we speak of sin. I emphatically disagree maybe in the short term the Church benefits but a soul can not maintain a relationship with God when he is obstinate in his sin. He will eventually leave the Church and often die estranged from the Lord and his Church. I beg Priests please love your people like Jesus loves us and preach preach, preach the truth. Be a Father and as a Father you will warn your Children especially if you knew they can lose their life if you remain silent. There is no amount of money, attendance nor popularity worth the loss a of soul! Jesus died to save souls. I once knew a Priest who told me I was a sinner and I needed to partake in the Sacrament of Reconciliation . In my youth and immaturity I laughed at him but I never forgot his words. It was those words that led me back in full communion with the Church. It was the happiest day of my life when I received God’s mercy! From that moment on I radically changed my life. To this day I pray for that Priest and thank God for his courage and for his vocation. I wish I could tell you how good God had been to me and how through the good times and bad times Jesus has been there to comfort , console and grant me his mercy. One soul found God and his Church because of one Priest who had the courage to tell me I was a sinner. Today I have a son studying for the Priesthood. So Father keep doing what you are doing and don’t let anyone or anything dissuade you from your vocation to bring souls to Christ. You are blessed and so loved by Jesus and Mary ! You are in my prayers!

  3. TaillerHews says:

    Excellent and much needed today. I think that what the “old priest” was not able to communicate to you was that a simple balance in preaching is desirable, That is, not all in the parish are prepared to hear the same admonishments at the same time. So, perhaps a qualifier is necessary when presenting these absolute truths.

    I think that, for a period of catechesis, it might be good for a poster to be placed in the vestibule of the church building with a listing of mortal sins / sinful attitudes which require the Sacrament of Reconciliation and absolution before people enter for worship AND for a priest or two to be available before every Mass to hear confessions. “Are you doing these things? Did you know that these things offend the Lord and cause you to lose grace and to potentially forfeit your future life in heaven? Come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation now for counsel, healing, contrition and absolution” or something like that…

    Many people might forget or may not realize they are sinning, in my opinion, because they have not been catechized or do not have the initiative to do the research.

    • from the post: But for most of us, this is a journey that is underway, and some have made more progress than others. Meanwhile, the preachers of the Church do well to appeal to the fear of punishment among other motives to avoid sin.

      Not enough balance for you? At any rate, I think it certainly remains true that catechesis is much needed.

      • TaillerHews says:

        Oh no, I didn’t mean that your post was unbalanced. I was just sharing my thoughts Msgr. You make posts; we think and make relatively shallow comments at the spur of the moment, but we try to participate with you. And I don’t always digest everything very well before I comment. I’m sorry.

  4. Janet says:

    Msgr, I wish this excerpt would go viral – I will be doing my part to make it happen.

    Just yesterday, my husband and I attended a funeral of a Protestant friend. His pastor gave a very beautiful talk and it was very comforting for both the family and friends. But now I know what was missing – no one left there thinking about their own spiritual health or pondering what they needed to do in order to be ready for their own day of judgement.

    I will pray for you and for all priests to have the courage to bring these truths back to the pulpit. People that object to “fear-based” preaching tend to be the same people who left the Church because they were tired of feeling guilty all of the time. I feel qualified to speak about this because I did just that and stayed away for 26 years. All I have to say is if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you won’t feel guilty!

    God bless you.

  5. Donna L. says:

    Excellent post! While we are alive, we all need reminding!! I confess there have been more than a few occasions when recalling or hearing Jesus’ stern warnings kept me from falling into temptation.

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7

  6. Susan says:

    The only time I have ever heard a homily where this was preached was at a TLM parish 45 minutes in another diocese and state from my own parish. We have just been assigned a new priest who appears to be on fire. I pray that he will preach the whole gospel fearlessly. In the meantime I have your homilies. God bless you for speaking the truth.

  7. edraCruz says:

    St. John Paul, the Great said “Be not afraid.” But at the rate we are submerging into secularism, hedonism and materialism, I think it is right that we must be reminded of the consequences of choosing evil and be afraid. Yes, I left the Church for five years looking for a religion of convenience only to return back because I need to relearn to deny myself, carry my daily cross and come after HIM who carried my sins to Golgotha. Yes, it was the threat of end times that brought me back and of course it is out of love for HIM who suffered for me that I sojourn this narrow path. Yes, we need to be reminded because we are like lambs being led to slaughter and it was not a compliment that JESUS likened us to lambs. Lambs are one of the dumbest of animals. However, adult or so-called matured we have become, we need a pastor who will guide us to the right path of salvation. Sh’ma Ysraeil. Baruch Shalom.

  8. Rick says:

    The old priest was not a very good psychologist. What the old priest did not understand is that self-love is never absent in a person, and that it might be the only source of motivation to do good. Self love is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to be virtuous. When love of God and love of neighbor are weak, we follow the commandments only out of self interest (self love). This is not a noble motive, but it may be the only thing we have going for us when it comes to restraining are bad desires. If we can restrain our bad desires, we might then notice that love of God is worth pursuing for its own sake.

  9. Theophilus2 says:

    During my Mother’s earthly existence she spoke often of being raised Nazarene where all was fire, brimstone and fear. Only when she entered the True Church did she come to.know the Living God as loving, merciful, True. Servile to filial fear of the LORD. But this generation barely knows servile fear. May the Spirit lead us all to daily perfect contrition that we may help others. Penance is key. Let us hold firm to Christ our Hope and let us hear Him now say “Behold, I make all things new”.

  10. Anne Marie says:

    I sense a reason why “the fear of punishment” is NOT preached so much is because of the interest in the last couple of years on the subject of “near death experiences” or NDE’s in which there has been many, many books that have been published and I have a number of them which show a much more positive experience to those who have had them. This could be a factor why a number of clergy have stopped preaching on “ the fear of punishment. “

    • Hmm… not so sure about this. Frankly such things have zero influence on me or any other priest I know, liberal or conservative. I think the roots of the problem go deeper and further back. My own theory remains the things I pointed out with emphasis on the “reaction” to what the men of that day grew up with, a more fire and brimstone approach, as they called it. But as I argue, their reaction was an over-reaction.

      • Rick says:

        Perhaps the over-reaction was based upon the false belief of Origen, that we are all were saved anyway so why appeal to the base fear of hell. More likely is the influence of Rousseau, and the educational philosophy that has been very influential for over a century. Rousseau rejected the notion of original sin and the idea that punishment can have an educative effect. All authentic impulses to the good come from within (hence, there’s no need for grace). All illegitimate impulses come from without. Rousseau believed that evil in man does not begin in original sin that we inherit at conception, but is perpetrated on the innocent (the noble savage) by society, one’s parents and the Church, all of which only inspires fear and loathing.

      • Anne Marie says:

        Thank-you for your answer and God Bless.

        • Laura R. says:

          About NDEs: in two of the more credible (in my opinion) books on these experiences, the authors encountered decidedly unpleasant and frightening situations which were clearly the result of bad life choices. Neither author was Catholic, but interestingly, both had the experience of not being allowed to proceed fully into Heaven because they weren’t spiritually ready and needed more preparation — which would be in line with the doctrine of Purgatory.

  11. Don says:

    Thank you, Msr. Pope.

    I have a couple of thoughts about this.

    First, my guess is that “hard” preaching like this might bring a storm of opprobrium down on a parish priest from parishioners who like their preaching soft and easy. And so priests avoid it because the complaint box fills up whenever they go there. Who wants to spend the week dealing with gripes and complaints about their Sunday homily?

    Second, I wonder if some priests might think the congregation simply won’t stand for anything more than the mildest doses of “tough medicine”, and so too much of such preaching might result in emptier pews on Sunday as parishioners melt away to other parishes less “negative” pastors.

    I am reminded of the phrase “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” That’s true up to a point but it seems that all honey, all the time, is not be the answer. Failing to remind people their behavior may land them in hell seems to be disservice. Maybe they need a little fear of punishment. Human beings are great rationalizers of their own behavior; if aren’t reminded of the consequences of sin, they may not see any reason to change.

    What do you think?

  12. Donna says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your post! I have been asking priests who I’ve encountered through these last 15 years or so why they don’t preach on sin more often or catechize on the most serious sins of today. The response I heard most was that since Vatican ll they were instructed to teach and explain the Gospel readings in union with the other readings of the day and the psalm. Although this is also most needed for todays people, especially the generation from the 60’s and 70’s, it still sends people out unknowing of what it is we are doing or not doing that could prevent our entrance into heaven. Another response was that their pastors asked them to not speak on sin so much because they received complaints from the parishioners. I do think things are changing though. Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the need to include catechesis in homilies and Pope Francis, I love the way he is straight forward and easy to understand and not afraid to admonish us! From listening to the “excerpt from funeral Sermon” your way of speaking is very much like this, straight forward, easy to understand and full of hope for the people. We very much need to pray for our priests! It isn’t the person who walks out on the homily or the one who rebukes a priest for saying something that offended them that they need protection from, it is the one who wants to destroy them, wants to sift them as wheat, who hates them for helping us, that is who wants to bring much harm to them. We must also pray and be martyrs for our loved ones who are struggling with serious sin and who don’t have any time for God, we must be their connection to the Church with lives of holiness. Like Msgr. said earlier in the week, we must allow ourselves to be put up on the Cross. Quoting Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Caritas In Veritate: “To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it…” I honestly don’t think most people know that there are two kinds of contrition, I know I didn’t always know that, all the more reason why catechesis is needed in Sunday homilies. Understanding this truth of our faith is even more helpful for me in avoiding sin because it is centered on God and not myself. I put your YouTube video above, Excerpt from funeral sermon, on my Facebook page. I’d be surprised if it got any “likes”. But as with all things Catholic that I post, I don’t think they go unread. :)

  13. RichardGTC . says:

    Unless there is compelling extra-biblical evidence, which could easily be the case, that St. Paul didn’t write The Letter to the Hebrews, I think St. Paul did write The Letter to the Hebrews. Sounds like St. Paul to me.

    “184 “Faith is a foretaste of the knowledge that will make us blessed in the life to come” (St. Thomas Aquinas. Comp. theol. 1, 2).”–CCC. A formally serious sin obscures the ‘foretaste of the knowledge that will make us blessed’. Without the foretaste there can’t a be a longing. Without the longing there can’t be activity in accord with the longing. I think that makes sense.

    “But this act of contrition also helps the penitent recall the journey we ought to make out of the fear of punishment to the deeper and more perfect motive of love of God and neighbor to avoid sin.”–Excellent point, imo.

  14. Lee says:

    This is from a paper I recently completed for a grad program in Biblical Theology. The thesis of the paper is that eliciting servile fear is the key to the New Evangelization:

    It would not be at all difficult to establish that eliciting servile fear has ever been the practice of the greatest evangelists in the Church:
    St. Paul of the Cross: “In Hell, never to see God, ever to be deprived of God! O what a dreadful necessity, to hate Him eternally who has loved us from all eternity!”
    St. Bernardine of Siena: “He giveth unto thee that part which thou dost choose in thine own way, or life everlasting, or hell. Dost thoii choose hell? Take thou the penalty thereof. Either to paradise or to hell thou must go; if thou didst not wish paradise, the worse for thee.”
    St. Vincent Ferrer: “Therefore, the Church in the person of every Christian makes petition in the Office for the Dead: ‘Deliver me, O Lord, from everlasting death, in that
    tremendous day when the heavens and the earth are moved, when Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.'”
    St. Paul: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6: 9-10; see also Gal 5: 19; Eph 5:5).
    John the Baptist: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matt 3:12).
    Our Lord: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” Also, Matt 7:23; 10:28; 13: 40-41, 50; 25:41; Lk 14:24; Jn 3:36.
    Of our Lord’s method St. John Chrysostom writes,
    “But why does He dwell so constantly on these subjects; judgment, resurrection and life? Because these are the most powerful arguments for bringing men over to the faith, and the most likely ones to prevail with obstinate hearers. For one who is persuaded he shall rise again, and be called by the Son to account for his misdeeds, will, though he know nothing more than this, be anxious to propitiate his judge.”

  15. RAY says:

    Thank you, Mgr Charles – well and truthfully taught. It would be so good to hear more of this kind of ‘truth’ being preached from the mouths of our priests, bishops and religious.
    One of the reasons, I very strongly believe, for the falling away of faith, is simply that THE FAITH is not properly and firmly (but with love) preached any more. It has all become a sort of wishy-washy ‘let’s make good and sure we don’t upset anybody, nor get under anyone’s skin, nor most importantly, not upset the apple-cart of the myriad of evil and sin of what is now socially acceptable in this new, enlightened age of ours!’ – I hear also even, ‘I must try not to upset my Bishop’!!
    I have even heard an RC priest preach, in his own peculiarly twisted vision of God’s love, that to live in a homosexual relationship is fine, just so long as it does not hurt anyone and you both love each other! ‘God is love and He understands,’ he maintains!!
    What evil and pernicious twaddle! It would be difficult to find a greater example of what Jesus Himself taught in Mark 9:42, when he said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who has faith to sin, it would be better that he be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.”
    In addition to this excellent blog, I would like to enlarge this whole thesis by changing just one word in Mgr Charles’ title line, to “Jesus never hesitated to preach ‘for’ fear of punishment” either!
    We are entering, (if we are not already in it), the run-up to the last great tribulation, when not just the priests of the church but all who call themselves Christians will be persecuted and punished, (and who knows, even martyred, as many already are), for their faith and I would exhort all those who belong to Jesus to be ready to stand up for Him without fear ‘of’ punishment, whether it comes from the state or his neighbour.
    There is not much time left and the faith must be preached, not only from the pulpit but also in the streets and on the roof-tops – ‘without fear of those who can harm the body but who can destroy the soul.’
    We have here in England an evil bill which will very soon be passed into law, unless there is some kind of miraculous intervention: it will become an act of Parliament which fully legalises same-sex marriage, without even one of the very many amendments called for by members of both houses and church leaders and priests as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens trying to stand up for Christ and the faith. And not even the new Archbishop of Canterbury has voted against it – in fact he has been very noticeably silent.
    But neither have we seen or heard very much being preached on this hugely evil issue by the Roman Catholic church – from the very top of the magisterium down!
    Come on men of God – let’s not only continue to vociferously preach ‘the fear of punishment’ but to go on preaching in the face of fear of punishment from the state.
    Only about ten days ago, an evangelical American street preacher, who was humbly going about God’s business, preaching the necessity of refraining from the sins of sexual immorality, as written by St Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, was arrested by the London Police and taken off to a cell and questioning for committing an alleged offence against public order, in that he offended listening homosexuals.
    It really is going to happen brothers and sisters – be ready for your turn!
    And for goodness sake, let’s keep praying for each other and this evil old world and for God’s final intervention.
    I pray God’s blessings on all
    Ray
    Portsmouth UK

  16. PadreNYC says:

    I recall not too long ago I preached a pretty tough homily on the necessity to repent, the reality of hell and evil sprits. I thought for sure that after Mass that my ear was going to get it from all sides both laity and my pastor alike. Remarkably, those who did comment basically said its about time they heard a homily like that. One person said to me,” The truth is the truth, Father.” another said, “Do not be afraid to preach the truth Father. We need more of that. ” I live in a fairly liberal area of NY (what part of NY isn’t liberal!) and so to hear many agreeing with me was refreshing and enlightening. Every priest should never be afraid to preach the truth. Jesus reminds us from today’s Gospel (Saturday 7/13) that we should never be afraid to say what is necessary because it will not be us who speak but the Lord himself will speak through us. Having that confidence and freedom should be in the heart of every priest. I pray for you and all priests (including myself) that we always preach the truth in the law of love. St. John Chrysostom and Bl. Fulton J. Sheen, pray for us.

  17. lisag says:

    Fear is a good starting point,but Christians must ultimately act in love. Fear of the Lord was replaced with Awe of the Lord in a homily one Sunday. The priest was afraid of making God sound too harsh. Another Sunday a priest could only come up with the sins of war and hunger to oppose during a homily. He did not want to offend the parishioners. If a priest is more afraid of the parishioners than the Lord we are in trouble. Isn’t it loving for a priest to tell someone they are a sinner rather than to let them continue in their sins.

  18. Nathaniel says:

    An excellent post. I would suggest that one problem with not preaching about sin and its consequences is a loss of love for God. In fact Luke 40-47 records Jesus speaking about the gravity of sin. He ties together forgiveness and love. He says ‘to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little’. In modern times the consequences of sin is downplayed. Thus while some may focus on the love of God they are not helping to bring about love for God. Without learning about sin and its consequences man will not understand how much he has been forgiven and be hampered from developing a deeper love for God. God’s love for us is only part of the message. A more complete truth includes the understanding that if we want to inherit eternal life we must love God. Learning about God’s love without learning about the gravity of sin and its consequences is not even really learning about God’s love.

  19. Tony R says:

    I you EVER feel that your posts do not have an effect, they do! For the positive. For those of us who starve for these words, they are a blessing beyond what I can put into words. I come back to this blog over and over. I live in the middle of Michigan. I know that Rome has specifically prayed for our diocese because of the difficulties here. This blog is the good that can come from the internet. Please continue your work, it gives me strength to continue. no this is not an over exaggeration. If I was younger and could find a decent job elsewhere, I would move. My wife homeschools our kids. Because she is having trouble keeping up, we enrolled our eldest in a Catholic school for the last month of the last school year. He will start this fall. We looked for the school that was the least liberal. Not for the best because of the 3 schools we looked at the best by far was the public school. If it weren’t for the agendas pushed in public teaching we would send my boy to the public school. Example of where we are, he attended the school Mass. During the Our Father prayer we taught him to bow his head and fold his hands. A teacher seeing this told him to hold hands with the kids next to him. He kept his head bowed and hands folded. The teacher physically pulled his hands apart and held them out so that he had to hold hands with the kids next to him. I called and asked a friend who has a son is in the same class. When my friend asked his son if he held hands he said he had to or he would get a million demerits. This was only one month of school. I don’t think he will make a full year next year. Please pray for us here.

  20. Hoss Gardner says:

    A Church without Hell. As a 5th grade Catholic School teacher attending mass one Wednesday with the school, the priest said, “We don’t know if anyone is in hell.” The priest who wrote the Catholicism series, on the last DVD of the collection says the same thing. Yet as your article points out Jesus warned of hell. The constant tradition of the Church warns about hell. Yet there seems to be no encyclical about hell. Perhaps Pope Francis can help us with that. I believe the anathemas of the Ecumenical Councils of Church history were understood in way that if the heretic didn’t change his ways Hell was going to be lot. But the prevailing feeling in the American Church seems to be open to the possibility that hell is empty of humans. I personally think the American Catholic Church is losing its way. The more they modernize the church buildings, the more they modernize the doctrines of the Church by turning them in touchy-feely, the more I feel like staying home. God help me!

    • Lee says:

      Hoss,

      ” Church without Hell. As a 5th grade Catholic School teacher attending mass one Wednesday with the school, the priest said, “We don’t know if anyone is in hell.The priest who wrote the Catholicism series, on the last DVD of the collection says the same thing.”

      And the worst of it is that he is the rector of a seminary. How can there be any New Evangelization if there is nothing to be saved from?

  21. Shin says:

    I think the loss of the sense and necessity of the virtue of justice, which makes punishment a good thing for its sake, has a lot to do with the negative reaction to these things.

    And the spirit of the age which just can’t bear any kind of restraint or negativity in favor of obeying God.

    Preaching the ‘harder’ things appeals more greatly to the men so I am thinking for folks who want more men in church. . .

    ‘The proof that a man does not love God and His Christ lies in the fact that He does not keep His commandments.’

    St. Basil the Great

  22. [...] Msgr Charles Pope writes: Some years ago I was stationed with a priest who, while he often liked my homilies, would often critique my use of what he called “fear based preaching.” Perhaps I had warned the congregation of punishment for sin, or even let slip that certain things were mortal sins that would exclude one from heaven and land them in hell. I would often playfully remind the congregation that missing Sunday Mass was a mortal sin by saying, “Go to Mass or go to hell.” I would also warn that fornicators would not inherit the Kingdom nor idolaters nor adulterers nor those who practice homosexuality, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (cf 1 Cor 6:9). [...]

  23. Nuno says:

    Thank you very much, Msgr Charles Pope, for your amazing work of Evangelization. I wonder would you be kind enough to translate the complete traditional act of contrition? Thank you very much.

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